MICHAEL NOVAK writes that America is “a Spartan Athens:”
The United States is self-consciously a child of the ancient civilization of Greece and Rome.
During long periods, America looks too pacific to be a threat to the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. Too much like Athens gone soft. But at times such as the present–with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq–the Spartan dimension of our civilization becomes visible to all doubters. The biggest thing that most Europeans don’t know about America is its Spartan side. Our founders chose the eagle as the symbol for the nation because the eagle is supreme in war, seeing unblinkingly and at great distances. Once fixed on its prey, the eagle is not easily deterred.
Our founders well knew that democracy of itself softens manners, tames–even coddles–the human spirit, and pulls great spirits down to a lower common level. No democracy will long survive, they knew, that does not toughen itself to face adversity, to raise up warriors, and to keep ready a warlike spirit. A democratic army should be small, under civilian control, they insisted, kept safely away from political power, but committed to keeping those who serve in it fearless and invincible.
In a word, in order to survive and to prosper, democracies need to infuse a Spartan spirit into their Athenian thinking. To maintain the peace, prepare for war. A democracy too soft will soon perish.
I’d be interested in hearing what Victor Davis Hanson, and perhaps Jacques Chirac, would say in reply.